Setting up home in Brazil – how hard can it be?

Having moved to Brazil with my husband in May last year, our plan was to stay with his parents for a few months while we bought an apartment of our own.

9 months later….!!

We are still living with the in-laws. Now, they are wonderful people who I love dearly, and they couldn’t have made me feel more welcome. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been great to have my food cooked for me, and to have company with whom to practice my appalling Portuguese. But there is only so long that you can stay with someone as a guest, and 9 months is way past that. I am longing for my own space, to cook my own food, to listen to my music, and to slob about the house if I wish. I am pretty sure they would also like to see the back of the Warner channel…

Cast of characters in The Big Bang Theory. Fro...

Cast of characters in The Big Bang Theory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We did actually buy an apartment in the Lourdes/Santo Agostinho area of Belo Horizonte last August, and I have to say that buying a property in Brazil was a quick process when compared to the UK. But new apartments here are sold as mere shells, and ever since, we have been trying to get it finished so that we can move in. When I say shell I mean no lights, no fitted kitchen, not even any toilet seats. We hired some people to help us, and were promised we would be in by October. Lesson 1: deadlines in Brazil mean squat.

One of the many changes we decided to make to the apartment was to replace the front door with something larger and more secure. So back in October, before we had even ordered a new door, the workers decided to remove our old front door to make way for the new one. Our front door is still not ready, and as a consequence we have spent the last 5 months with nothing more than a thin sheet of wood leaning against the big hole where our front door should be. Lesson 2: common sense doesn’t always prevail.


We received many quotes for different things, from fitting a kitchen to furniture items. 99% of the time my reaction was to stare in shock, re-read the quote, then exclaim that they must be joking. Lesson 3: whatever you expect something to cost, double or triple it.

I set about going to furniture stores where it annoyed me that I couldn’t see the prices of each item and browse at my own leisure. Instead I had to be followed by a shop assistant, who only after I had pointed out things that I liked, would email me a quote showing me that I had chosen the most expensive coffee table in the southern hemisphere. But don’t panic – I could pay for it in 100 installments. Luckily I have a husband who is a master in the art of haggling. Lesson 4: never pay full price. Even with a discount you are probably still being ripped off.

Then, once you have chosen your R$11,000 coffee table (which I did not, by the way), then comes the delivery times. The most recent was 60-90 days. That’s working days. In other words, 3-4 months! For items coming from factories in São Paulo for example, not Mars. Lesson 5: patience is a virtue.


I have seen first-hand a marked difference in how efficient workers can be in Brazil compared to the UK. Why does every job cost three times as much? Because it takes them three times as long to complete. Maybe it goes hand in hand with the laid back attitude of Brazilians in general.

Unfortunately my patience ran out a long time ago, but we are nearing the end of the project and I am pleased to say that a lot of the work has been of a good quality. My husband says that if it’s not ready in two weeks, he’s going to move in anyway, camped out in a tent amongst the dust. Good for you Mr V.


10 responses to “Setting up home in Brazil – how hard can it be?

  1. I laugh loud. Yeh, this is Brazil =). Maybe if you had help from a brazilian friend things could be different. You need the ‘brazilian way of life’ (jeitinho brasileiro) to survive here. Nice blog, congrats, but talk about the good things from Brazil too – I’m sure you will love a lot of things here – because we have had enough of the negative point of view day by day 😉 right?

      • Well, come to the Northeast of the Brazil, it’s different of everything else: climate, food, music, history, everything is new if you only know the Southeast. I saw you have a post about the brazilian food, in Northeast you will find even more different food and even more uses for the mandioca =). Here the houses are sold with toilet seats rsrsrs. I made a blog to talk about my city: but I have no time lately and the blog is stopped. Your blog gave me an idea, I really need to practice my english grammar, which is very poor, and the best way for this is writing and reading, which I have been trying. Maybe I start to write my blog in english to show the world a very good piece of Brazil (=.

      • I visited the North East once many years ago, but I still have so much to see there. I will check out your blog! Yes you could write in English, however most of us non-brazilians in Brazil ought to be learning Portuguese 😉

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